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Culbone Woods

Exmoor National Park Authority's Culbone Wood sits on the steep, north coast of Exmoor and is made up of mostly sessile oak (Quercus petraea) woodland which totals 183.76ha. Along with neighbouring, private woodlands, Culbone Wood helps to make up one of the longest unbroken stetches of coastal woodland in England between Porlock and Countisbury, which is evident if seen from the sea or from south Wales. 

Culbone Wood experiences clean, moist coastal air which results in lush vegetation growing from trees and shrubs, to ferns, mosses and lichens, all thriving in this damp microclimate. Because of this, Culbone Wood is termed an Atlantic Oakwood which is often described as Britain's temperate rainforest. As well as the sessile oak trees there are numerous sweet chestnut trees (Castenea sativa), downy birch (Betula pubescens), rowan (Sorbus acuparia), holly (Ilex aquifolium), hazel (Corylus avellana) and Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) growing throughout the woodland.

Much of the site was formerly coppiced to provide wood for various uses including charcoal making which was in turn used as the fuel in local limekilns to make lime. It was also used for making pitprops for use in mines and tan bark for the leather tanning trade. The remains of old multi-stemmed oak coppice stools and areas of level ground from charcoal platforms are still visible in the woodland today.

One of the specialities of the site are some rare types of Sorbus or whitebeam trees growing there, such as Sorbus vexans and Sorbus margaretae, which are limited in range to northern Exmoor and north Devon.  The site is subject to occasional landslips due to the unstable underlying geology and the action of the local climate and the sea. Because of the disturbed ground, different vegetation will tend to grow on landslips such as the Scare wood vetch, Vicia sylvatica.

The site is managed through low intensity woodland management. Much of the site is allowed to develop naturally but occasional thinning or coppicing has been carried out to allow more light to the rare whitebeam trees and stub pollards, or to create a more diverse woodland structure. Some non-native conifers have been felled to allow young native broadleaf trees to grow on. Most felled timber is left on site in order to increase the deadwood resource but some of the oak has been used to produce the National Park Authority's signs and rights of way furniture. Invasive rhododendron is being removed to prevent it from spreading into the rest of the site. Where areas of woodland have been opened up, they can often frame views towards the south Wales coast and across the Bristol Channel.

Location

Culbone Wood is a strip of woodland located west of Porlock and on the steep, north coast of Exmoor. Culbone Church (which is located towards the eastern end of the site) is at grid reference SS842482.

Facilities

There are no car parks nearby and any visit to Culbone Wood will require a long approach on foot.  

Public Access

The site is relatively inaccessible and the easiest way to reach Culbone Wood is on foot from the South West Coast Path which runs through the site. There are other permissive paths throughout the site available for public use. Occasional landslips block or alter the paths and visitors should ensure that they comply with any path diversions in place.

What to look out for

Rare endemic Sorbus trees grow within the site, particularly along the edge of the cliffs. Mossy, lichen-covered trees grow throughout the woodland on steep ground sloping towards the sea. The tiny Culbone Church dedicated to St Beuno, is situated in a deep wooded combe and has features dating back to the 12th century. Spectacular views exist across the Bristol Channel to south Wales.

Find out more about the management of Exmoor National Park Authority's Culbone Woods